Where Logic Meets Love

Jessica's Rules for Funemployment

Friday, March 8, 2013

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Jessica's Rules for Funemployment | Faith Permeating Life

I've temporarily replaced my vision board on my computer desktop. With what, you ask?

Well, after another good counseling session the other night, I did a lot of thinking about how to handle this particular time of life. Having too many options is freaking me out a bit. Not having an ultimate goal is making it hard for me to focus and get anything done.

But I know some things about myself. And one of those things is: I like having rules to follow.

I did well in school in part because I am very good at following directions. I crave direction. I like structure and predictability -- you do this, you get this. In college, I was in student organizations where we set goals for our organization and then achieved them. Even in the full-time jobs I've had (except this last one), figuring out what to do has been fairly straightforward -- I'm given assignments, I do them. In my personal life, I'm always working on projects that have a clear end result.

So having my life become one giant question mark -- What am I meant to do? Where do I start? Where do I want to end up? What would make me happiest? -- has thrown me a bit. And having so much unstructured time every day means that no matter what I'm doing, I always feel like I should be working on something else.

On reflection, I decided I needed to write myself some rules, and put them on my computer where I would see them every day.

Please note: These are not prescriptions for everyone who is unemployed. These are based on my own knowledge of myself and how I function best. Knowing, however, that they might be helpful to others, at least as a form of inspiration, I decided to share them here.

Jessica's Rules for Funemployment
  1. Volunteer. One-time for new things, longer-term commitments for things you know you care about. You'll feel less useless when your skills are being put to use, plus you'll meet more people, get a better grasp on what you want to do with your life, and have something to show for this time when you next interview.
  2. Set your standards low. You're not going to become Superwoman simply by virtue of having more time; if anything, you'll do less without having the usual time pressure.
  3. Follow your body clock. Get as much sleep as you need. When you're working, you'll have to fit your sleep schedule around your work schedule, but you don't have to conform to that now.
  4. Eat regular, healthy meals. Exercise when possible, but don't pressure yourself too much about it.
  5. Even if you don't know where you want to end up, start somewhere. Pick something. It's OK if it turns out to be the wrong thing. But give yourself a goal so you know which next steps to take.
  6. Remember the magic words "for now." You're working on editing a book for now. You're focusing on freelance work for now. You'd like to work on campus for now.
  7. Dabble. It doesn't make you unfocused; it makes you a scientist, trying to figure out where you're meant to be.
  8. Pay attention. What do you do that lights you up? What do you avoid doing?
  9. Schedule multiple things for the same day when possible. Otherwise you end up wasting time until it's time for the *one thing* you have to do that day. Balance scheduled days with days open for your own projects.
  10. Above all, be loving and serve others. Remember that your highest, universal calling is the most important one.
I intentionally chose the somewhat silly word "funemployment" as a way of reminding myself that I chose to quit my job because I was unhappy, and this period of time is automatically more fun than having my life sucked away by a job I hate that takes up most of my waking hours. I also want to remind myself that it's OK to enjoy this time off; it doesn't have to be all nose-to-the-grindstone working on trying to get another job and/or accomplishing all the things I wasn't able to do while working.

Numbers 5 and 7 might seem at odds with each other, but they're not. I need a specific goal to work toward to keep from feeling completely lost, but I also need permission from myself to try a lot of different things and not feel like that's wasted time.

Finally, I'm still using this prioritization technique, which helps me figure out which order to do things in, once I have in my head a bunch of things I'd like to be doing. It's a good way to remind myself that I can't do everything at once, and that the things I want to do actually mean something for my larger life goals.

How do these fit with your own experience, if you've been unemployed? What other advice would you give yourself in the same situation?

6 comments:

  1. Number 9 is such a great insight--if there's just one thing in a day, then it eats up the whole day. And your really need big chunks of time to dig into your own projects. I have unconsciously gravitated to this, but I think it will be helpful to put it in words like that. I also think this is a very important thing for kids--making sure they have days with big chunks of unscheduled time for their own pursuits (even if those pursuits are charging through the underbrush waving sticks or reading three Nancy Drews back to back).

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    1. Even though I know that projects can be done in bits and pieces, it's a mental thing for me -- I'm more likely to sit down and tackle something if I know I won't have to stop at a certain time. Of course, there are downsides, like if I'm really into a project I might not stop and eat when I should (thus #4).

      Unscheduled time is great for kids -- I did many big, creative projects as a kid by virtue of having plenty of unstructured time to make my own.

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  2. Since I'm also currently experiencing "funemployment" after finishing uni I think this is a very sensible list of rules. Having large chunks of unstructured time has been very unsettling for me, but all of the things on my to-do lists have been non-urgent things I can just leave until later (and therefore are still left un-done haha). I think volunteering in particular is a great suggestion.

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    1. It's hard, isn't it, to feel both like "Now I can do all of those important and non-urgent things I've wanted to do!" and also "I have all the time in the world, so I'm not going to rush to do any of these things"?

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  3. I was only unemployed for a few weeks, but one of the first things I did was set out rules for myself (you must go outside at least once a day, you must apply for at least 4 jobs in a week, you must do that activity you've been wanting to do but haven't taken the time to do...). I think you're on the right track, and it sounds like you certainly know what you need.

    Prayers for all the unemployed folks, but I certainly hope you enjoy funemployment while you have it. Unemployment is not easy but enjoy a bit of not being chained down by a work schedule.

    I am procrastinating the job search while still employed, partly because I'm afraid of finding a horrible job and partly because I have no idea what direction I want to go in. (I've got a bag full of excuses, but I'm totally not helping myself any by not even looking.) I really like your number 8--pay attention. I've always believed that people have lights or fire or whatever you want to call it inside of them, and I love the times when I get to witness that light while I interact with them. Number 8 is a reminder that I need to pay attention to myself, too.

    Also, I like your method of prioritizing things. Between life changes and impending work changes, I've been thinking a lot about how overinvolved I get and what pieces of my life I really want to prioritize. I really like the mission-oriented guidelines you set out.

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    1. High-five for self-made rules!

      Number 8 is something I think anyone can do at any time to help guide their life choices. It's just something I particularly need to remind myself of now as I'm struggling to figure out where I want to put my energy.

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